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Les Epreuves

 

In French language ‘une épreuve’ means ‘a challenge/ a test’ and ‘a print’. Inspired by the life of mixed-race children in (post) colonial Indochina, I walk the woods and print in the darkroom to work through historical knots in the body. Les épreuves thus refer to the labour needed to engage in a collective process of healing justice. 

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Les épreuves / the tests, the prints

 

In this dim reddened room, 

I articulate mystery with photons and silver crystals. 

For hours, I bring back moments from the past just like future ancestors. Who am I?

 

In the forest, close, close, mosquitoes devour my knotted blood.

It ebbs, cycles and bleeds out.

What is it mixing? Audacity and resistance.  

The voracious insects strive to reach the skin-organ through my clothing. 

It itches. 

Pointy twigs disturb my bare feet. But it is the beginning of summer.

 

Here, I meet her. A tree.

 

She guides me to where I can hear her steady breath. 

She lets me lean back, she bears my weight. I perch on her branches.

 

Eprouver: to feel, to experience.

 

Holly-Houx, qui êtes-vous? Who are you? Ilex aquifolium, hulis, huls. 

Heterophyll and leaf polymorph.

All these words try to categorise your multiple dimensions...

What translations feed our relations?

 

Up there the light moves through the branches,

 then, a little lower in my hand,

it comes to touch the cotton of the áo dài, aged by use and time.

Far from testing me, your tender leaf, Holly-Houx, delights me.

 

Eprouver: to test, to try, to prove.

 

The leaf transforms to the rhythm of your encounters... deterring some grazer in search of food, you become prickly, or else make yourself supple and round,

because you open to the flows of your forest.

 

Eprouver: to afflict, to distress.

 

Can you free me from history? I asked.